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  1. #1
    R/D
    R/D is offline

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    Rookie darkroom advice

    Hello, folks. I just moved into a new house and after some reconfiguring of my ill designed basement laundry area, I think I have finally settled on that area as my future darkroom. After shooting Digital for years I just started shooting medium format less than a year ago and I am proud to say I have only picked up my DSLR once since. I shot quite a few rolls but have only printed only about a dozen prints in a rented darkroom before it shut down for the summer and now, for good. I recently purchased the books: Build Your Own Darkroom by Duren and McDonald and The New Darkroom Handbook by DeMaio, Worth and Curtain. Between these books, and Ansel Adam's, The Negative/ Print, lies my limited knowledge of the darkroom. My main concerns are the size of the sink I will need and choosing an enlarger.

    The size of my room will be about 10' by 5'

    I will be shooting 6X7 mostly (RB67) along with 6X6 and 35mm.

    I love B&W now, but would like to print color as well.

    The max print size I would like to make is 20X24 although that will be aways off until I get somewhat good at printing.

    I would like to eventually begin toning in selenium and it seems as if the sink would have to be as long as my house to accommodate all the chemistry trays plus some type of print washer.

    What would the best type enlarger and lens be for my needs ? Perhaps something with bulbs that aren't too expensive

    Im handy so I planned on making everything from wood.

    I have a decent amount to spend and my local Craiglist seems to have a good selection when I have checked it.

    Can I achieve what I want within these constraints ? I realize these are extremely open ended questions. If anyone could point me towards some websites or other info I would be highly appreciative.

    Thanks,

    Joe

  2. #2
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by R/D View Post
    The size of my room will be about 10' by 5'
    Hi, there. For starters, You will need to economize your space if this is your limit. I would arrange a sink/counter along one ten foot wall about three feet deep leaving you about 24 inches wiggle room. You will need to split it mentally in half (five feet for wet and five feet for dry.) Seperate the two by some sort of semi-permanent partition. On your wet side I would probably have a 24"x24" or so sink leaving about two and a half feet for a vertical setup for your trays and whatever else you can squeeze in there. Hang your timer and install lots of shelving over the wet side.

    Quote Originally Posted by R/D View Post
    The max print size I would like to make is 20X24 although that will be aways off until I get somewhat good at printing.
    Good, because at 5x10 you do not have the space. But I would think you have plenty of space for 11x14.

    Quote Originally Posted by R/D View Post
    I would like to eventually begin toning in selenium and it seems as if the sink would have to be as long as my house to accommodate all the chemistry trays plus some type of print washer.
    This is where you need to install some cabinets under the sink/counter as well. The wet side can hold chemistry and anything that will be used on the wet side of processing/printing.

    Quote Originally Posted by R/D View Post
    Im handy so I planned on making everything from wood.
    Good to be handy. Remember to measure twice and cut once.

    Quote Originally Posted by R/D View Post
    Can I achieve what I want within these constraints ? I realize these are extremely open ended questions. If anyone could point me towards some websites or other info I would be highly appreciative.
    One thing not covered here is the dry side. Make sure you have enough counter space for the enlarger to stand upon and have your paper safe and dodging/burning tools close at hand. 3x5 should be more than sufficient. I wish I had that much room myself. Shelves above and cabinets beneath for all dry side related material. Paper, paper safe, film, safelight, timer (again, attach to the wall to save). I would, if you can afford, get a basic egg timer for your processing times (film/paper). If you can find one cheap like I did, get a Gralab for your enlarging. Safelight for the wet side and the dark side each for better visibility.

    Yes, you can easily fo thi swithin these constraints. Just need to be inventive with your space. I am envious. Have fun.
    Thank you.
    CWalrath

    "Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti

  3. #3
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Hi Joe:

    Do I understand correctly that you are in the New Jersey area? Your location is relevant when it comes to recommending enlargers.

    The 10' x 5' space should work well for a darkroom.

    While it is nice to be able to include toning as part of a single, multi-step process, I find it easier to re-soak and then tone on a separate day, after initially drying my prints. For big prints, you can also make use of a "tray ladder" as well - it permits a sort of stacking of trays.

    There are lots of good enlarger recommendations. I'll start out by recommending something local to you - a Beseler 23C series enlarger. They are durable, common and they are still being made. You can use them for everything from 16mm miniature negatives to 6x9 negatives.

    You may also want to consider a 4x5 enlarger. They tend to be robust and very flexible with both larger and smaller sizes, and are the sort of equipment that, even if they have had heavy, professional use, are likely to be fully functional. A Beseler 45 series enlarger, or an Omega D series enlarger (D2, D5 or D6, as an example) would be worth considering.

    There are also a large number of enlarger models that are designed to "max out" at 6x7 size. Some of them, like the Beseler 67C I used for many years, are excellent choices, and reasonably plentiful on the used market.

    Good luck, and have fun.

    Matt

  4. #4
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    Oh, and don't forget a decent stereo. I don't play music while timing something but it is nice to have it handy when you want it. And hang an inspirational photograph of a favorite photographer, not too big. Just a couple more ideas to personalize your space. And I'm glad Matt followed up with the enlarger advice as my experience with differing enlargers is rather limited.
    Thank you.
    CWalrath

    "Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti

  5. #5
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Chris' advice is excellent, but it makes me smile.

    Clearly, I have spent more time than Chris has in darkrooms that are smaller than 10' x 5' .

    Bigger is however, better!

    One thing to keep in mind though is that it is not absolutely necessary that the trays be in a deep sink - a water resistant table top with a small rim can work too. Just be sure to have a usable smaller sink or two (laundry tubs work) nearby.

    Have you looked through the darkroom portrait thread? http://www.apug.org/forums/forum43/1...html#post84482

    Matt

  6. #6
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    No, on the contrary, Matt. I have a 3x6.5 downstairs half bath. That includes space for the hopper. There is a 2x2 sink alcove. And I process and print in there. I would be doing the frickin backstroke at 5x10.
    Thank you.
    CWalrath

    "Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti

  7. #7
    jeroldharter's Avatar
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    You have a small space. I agree with the one long 3 foot deep work area. I would go with an Omega or Beseler 4x5 enlarger (I use Beseler).

    I think you should draw out everything to scale on graph paper before you start anything. Take into account your vertical space also so that you are sure you have room for the top of your enlarger extended to maximum.

    You will need an area to dry negatives so a homemade version of a Jobo Mistral film dryer using a PVC frame and shower curtains would work well. It is collapsible and can be stored away when not in use.

    You will need space to dry prints also. You don't have room for drying screens so a retractable vinyl covered clothesline (or two) strung the length of the room will give you plenty of print drying space.

    You have limited room to store chemicals. Try to settle on one shot chemistry for all processes so you don't have to store anything beside stock solutions.

    You will have limited space for processing trays. Consider single tray processing if you have a good water source and use plastic 2000 ml beakers from US Plastics to hold your solutions while using just one tray.

    A floor drain would be ideal. You could build a cart for your print washer and store it under the sink when not in use so it does not hog sink space. You could run tubing from the water source to the washer and then drain it into the floor.

    Build a shallow sink that is sufficiently high for your comfort level. Build some vertical slats under the sink for tray drying/storage. Build some horizontal shelves under the sink also for storage of solutions, beakers, etc. If you are handy enough, make the shelves extendable (even though you have only 2 feet for extension) for easier access.

    Hang a large dry erase board/greaseboard on the short wall for writing notes. Some are also magnetic and handy for attaching instruction pamphlets etc.

    You small darkroom will likely be cluttered and prone to dust. Use semigloss paint that is easier to dust and clean than flat paint. Use a smart floor surface as well (e.g. sheet vinyl).

    Under the enlarger, you have a lot of potential space if you use pull-out shelves. You can store paper safes, dodging tools, contact print frames, focusing aids, negatives, etc.

    If you are really handy, put a small air compressor in an adjacent room with a switch and outlet hose in the darkroom to dust negatives.

    Use a flush, steel, exterior door because it is relatively cheap and easier to lightproof than a wood door.

    Pay attention to ventilation. But if you use single tray processing you will have a much easier time with vapors because less surface area is open to air at any one time.

    Put anti-fatigue mat material along the length of the darkroom.

    Install twice as many electrical outlets as you think you need. Put some under the sink and enlarger (you might want a timer or tempering bath under there). Put some up high near the ceiling.

    Ideally you would have some space outside the darkroom for storage, framing, etc.

    I would paint the area around the enlarger and its ceiling gloss black. The rest of the room I would paint pure white or pure pale gray.
    Jerold Harter MD

  8. #8
    RalphLambrecht's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeroldharter View Post
    ...I would paint the area around the enlarger and its ceiling gloss black...
    Why gloss?
    Regards

    Ralph W. Lambrecht
    www.darkroomagic.comrorrlambrec@ymail.com[/URL]
    www.waybeyondmonochrome.com

  9. #9
    jeroldharter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RalphLambrecht View Post
    Why gloss?
    I know most people say flat black due to worry about reflection. But I have never had problems with that. Flat black paint is a pain to wash off and seems to attract dust more than semigloss paint.
    Jerold Harter MD

  10. #10
    RalphLambrecht's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeroldharter View Post
    I know most people say flat black due to worry about reflection. But I have never had problems with that. Flat black paint is a pain to wash off and seems to attract dust more than semigloss paint.
    I see. Maybe luster or semigloss, then? I used flat black without issues.
    Regards

    Ralph W. Lambrecht
    www.darkroomagic.comrorrlambrec@ymail.com[/URL]
    www.waybeyondmonochrome.com

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